Tuesday, April 28, 2015

No meat on the bone - troubles for WildRump

Having puzzled over polls I've started to see some reality in the Alberta election.

To best explain, I will take some lines from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce's rating of the platforms of each party, as found on the CBC.

One of the most damning accusations was against the Wildrose platform.

In reviewing the Wildrose platform, it seems to be high on promise, but severely light on detail, making it exceedingly difficult to evaluate the feasibility of their proposals

Wildrose already has enough problems with a robot leader stuck in a "low taxes" feedback loop. In fact even in that article I just linked to, the conclusion is maybe not a social conservative and actually will keep taxes low.

The entire Wildrose campaign rings hollow. The party has only come up with one thing that truly differentiates themselves from the others and that is taxes, they want to balance the budget with cuts alone. Most Albertans do not want that, they realize that Prentice's tax hikes are rather mild and needed, even the aforementioned Chamber of Commerce is a fan of progressive income taxes.

Beyond that, Wildrose has a lot of commitments that don't seem to be thought out. The Wildrose budget; page 5 BTW, clearly says they will get the plurality of their money from a combo of the following:

Ending cronyism
Ending corporate grants
"Zero-based budgeting" - IE turning Alberta budgets into US style budgets
Auditor General value audits
and a "Wastebuster" program.

Now I can't say I know how many corporate grants Alberta gives out, but the rest of this? Well first, lets talk about Zero-based budgeting. All that really will do is give them the ability to hack and slash away at any social program they feel like if revenues don't match expectations. The remainder of these all assume that there are billions upon billions of government waste in Alberta.

In addition, the budget seems to think you can just cut half of all healthcare managers without any ill effects. Other cuts they plan could easily be opposed by public sector unions.

In fact the only way this makes sense is if you presume this is written so poorly on purpose so they can burn down the social welfare net once they get in to office and claim it was - after all - in their platform, it was just hidden in strange wording is all.

Wildrose is running a hollow campaign, with a hollow leader. The things I noted previously in troublesome polls - that people under-report having voted last time for a certain party, and, are super enthusiastic about voting for them this time - all show up in Wildrose numbers. Where I don't see such problems is with the NDP.

As such, I've come to the personal conclusion that Wildrose is being over-estimated by many. Despite the polls, I think the party will likely end up in third on election day, not second, and not first.

We could still see a minority, and a NDP-Wildrose government is not as crazy as some might think it is, but I highly doubt we will see Wildrose forming a majority of their own.


  1. Interesting post, Teddy. You're definitely right, it does seem a bit hollow; but would that possibly be a purposeful tactic? Wildrose's issues in 2012 were that they showed off too much, and painted themselves (willingly and unwillingly) into a certain corner on the spectrum; maybe Jean's idea here is to just ride the general discontent of voters to victory, and let them choose to paint him however they'd prefer.

  2. Just FYI, the PCs championed "zero-based budgeting" under Premier Redford and MinFin Horner.

  3. I posted a comment on zero based budgeting that disappeared when I hit publish.
    You should fix that, you might get more comments.

    1. You mean the one below? Or another one? I can't really change Blogger's poor comments publisher, sorry - just have to make do.

  4. Zero based budgeting just means you start with a blank page each year. You don't assume that money you spent on programs last year needs to be spent on programs again this year. More governments should do this, at least periodically. Otherwise the bureaucrats find it too easy to just duplicate last years department & ministry budgets, year after year, ad infinitum.
    They are a good idea.

    1. They are a terrible idea. They allow you to make whatever cuts you feel like, and in a minority situation, allow you to "shut down the government" like the US does from time to time. Thanks to inflation, our current system already imposes cuts each year.

    2. Yeah, that does seem incredibly stupid and an easy way to make arbitrary cuts where you feel like it, with little or no consequences except for the people using those services.

    3. Zero based budgets can provide an important insight on how money is spent and budgets produced For example; the state paid for Bede's laundry last year because he was ill, this year Bede is better and able to do his own laundry, therefore the money can be re-allocated. However, they also impose a cost; since, you start at zero the analytical and evaluation process must start from scratch as well unless pre-existing tenders and contracts exist (in which case you're not necessarily starting at zero). Who will evaluate if bede is able to do his laundry or not? administrative costs etc...mount and are duplicated. In organisations as big as governments re-evaluating policies, budgets, tenders, contracts, is a time consuming and expensive process. Governments spend a lot of money on pensions, salaries, human resources, if one had to start at zero every year and so delay payment it would not take long for many angry people to emerge.

  5. Interesting analysis.

    I think the goal of Brian Jean and the Wildrose was for the party to survive and be the official opposition to the (what was then) inevitable Prentice majority government. The Wildrose did not expect the PCs to tank the way they did, and they have not done much to capitalize on that.

    Despite leading in the polls for the first two weeks, there was never much discussion about Brian Jean and his party. Maybe it was Albertans skepticism of the polls after 2012. He was practically shunned by Prentice and Notley during the debates. It brought forward a perception that the race was between Prentice and Notley and the Wildrose is just an afterthought.

    Still, I think the Wildrose will sweep most of rural and small town Alberta (with small pockets of NDP support in Lethbridge, Red Deer etc). I don't think rural Alberta is warm to Prentice and the anti-PC vote will naturally go towards the Wildrose.

    With the NDP dominating Edmonton, it all comes down to tight three way races in Calgary to determine the result of the election.